Open Press at First Court-Martial in Abu Ghraib Case

By Jim Garamone

The first court-martial to arise from allegations of detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison will be held in Baghdad beginning May 19, U.S. officials in Baghdad said over the weekend..

Army Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits is facing three charges: conspiracy to maltreat subordinates and detainees; dereliction of duty for negligently failing to protect detainees from abuse, cruelty and maltreatment; and maltreatment of detainees.

The court-martial will be held at the Convention Center in Baghdad’s Green Zone. It will be open to the press, officials said. According to Washington officials, Sivits could receive up to one year in prison, reduction in grade to private, forfeiture of two-thirds of his pay for up to a year and a fine. He also may receive a bad-conduct discharge.

Besides announcing the upcoming court-martial, coalition military spokesman Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt also spoke about continuing operations in Iraq. He said conditions have been "relatively stable." Over the past 24 hours, coalition forces conducted 1,720 patrols, flew 31 Air Force and Navy sorties and captured 25 anti-coalition suspects, Kimmitt said.

In Baghdad, the 1st Cavalry Division conducted a cordon-and-search operation May 8, aimed at a former headquarters used by followers of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The division had received intelligence that Sadr loyalists were attempting to reclaim their former headquarters. The soldiers detained six militia members and confiscated documents. One of the detained Iraqis appears to be a financier of the group, and another is suspected of being one of Sadr’s lieutenants responsible for eastern Baghdad, Kimmitt said.

The general reported progress in Fallujah, the city west of Baghdad that has been the scene of much disorder over the past month. The Iraqi brigade – set up via negotiations – has patrols throughout the city, Kimmitt said. U.S. Marines and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps members are jointly manning traffic control points outside the city. Inside the city, Iraqi police are working with the Fallujah brigade to maintain order. The general said the city has gone four days without a cease-fire violation.

Kimmitt said the relative calm is allowing the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force to rebuild Anbar province. "These steps will begin the flow of massive amounts of money that will be required to rapidly restore the quality of life for the citizens of Fallujah and its surrounding communities," Kimmitt said.

In the central-south zone of Iraq, Karbala and Najaf are relatively stable, Kimmitt said, except for sporadic mortar fire directed at the governor’s palace. "The majority of citizens of these two cities are responding positively to the presence of coalition forces," he said.

In the southeast zone, Shiias responded to anti-coalition sermons in various mosques and attacked coalition forces at various locales in Basra, the leading city, Kimmitt said. They attacked bases, police stations, government offices and the like. Coalition forces responded. In one case, about 30 men armed with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns occupied two bridges across the Shall al Arab waterway. Coalition forces cleared the bridges and secured the city. By noon May 8, there were reports of sporadic contacts, but coalition forces maintained control of Basra, Kimmitt said.